Checking out Clear WiMAX in Portland

Clear, mobile internet access provider, had introduced WiMAX in Portland, only the second market in the US. Since my income is dependent on internet connection, I have been looking for a backup to Comcast, who is OK on a daily basis, but CLUELESS and unconcerned when my service goes out.

Clear is not looking good. I was looking for a solution that would simplify my life. My intro was a mailing that I suspect every household in their market got. It featured simple layout with a crisp green color scheme. That’s where the pleasantness and my hope for a different experience ended.

For a company named Clear, there’s a lot (and all-to-common) obfuscation going on. I first got it when I followed the URL in my mailer. My goal: to find out what the real costs would be and what the difference between home and mobile internet access. The web promotion for both named the 6-month promo price, but provided no information about eventual costs or the difference. I clicked on the Chat button and was connected to someone who knew next to nothing, parroting back what I’d just read on the web site. She referred me to technical support who did answer some of my questions before disconnecting me. My follow up call got the rest of my questions answered.

Here’s What I Wanted to Know
(and took a visit to the web site and contact with five Clear people to find out)

  • Home is a USB or Ethernet “stand up” modem (cost not pursued)
  • Mobile is a USB key modem that costs $50.
  • The mobile plan with the USB modem will not work with OS X Leopard.(3 out of 5 Clear people say it won’t work. Not very clear.)
  • The mobile plan with the USB modem will work with Windows XP running on Mac hardware.
  • Mobile can be used at home. You just need a USB slot. No speed difference.
  • Activation fee of $35 is to go month-to-month. It’s waived with a 2-year contract.
  • Account is system-wide, i.e., my Portland account will work in any Clear service area.
  • Clear Tech Support says they support Leopard and XP on a Mac. Once denied, twice confirmed.
  • Clear software must be installed on each machine to use the modem.
  • Account/Internet access is not limited by machine or user. My USB modem can be used on any hardware that has their software installed.
  • Installed software can monitor data usage (for data-limited plans).
  • Data overage costs: $10/GB. These were REALLY difficult to find out. One guy insisted there were no overage costs even though they have data-limited plans.
  • Cancellation: With contract, 7-day grace period. No contract, cancel at any time within 7-days with no penalty. Sacrifice activation fee to cancel after 7 days for no contract. Hardware: 7-day credit, otherwise you own it.
  • Contract: upgrade plan without penalty. Downgrade extends the contract. Early Termination fee is more than $35. No Contract: no fee to change/stop.
  • The only difference in monthly cost between a monthly plan and a contract for WiMAX is the $35 activation fee. It’s waved if you sign up for a contract. Why would anyone sign up for a contract?

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